Smell of Popcorn

film reviews & musings by Max Lalanne

Thoughts on Twilight: Why I hate Bella Swan, and how Breaking Dawn – Part 2 can possibly redeem her

Posted by Max Lalanne on June 20, 2012

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I’m a young guy. And yet I do admit I see the appeal of the Twilight phenomenon. Bella Swan is an embodiment of millions of teenage girls, who got lucky because she has an otherworldly and atypical creature, a beautiful vampire, swooning over her…and that’s basically it. Bella isn’t required to do anything else except fall in love with said vampire – because (cough) which ordinary girl wouldn’t fall in love with Robert Pattinson? – and later to fall in love with a hunky werewolf – because (cough, cough) which ordinary girl wouldn’t fall in love with Taylor Lautner? Girls can live out their fantasies through Bella, who serves as the stereotypical “teenager full of love-struck angst” that perfectly fits the bill and Hollywood knows it. I hate even mentioning The Hunger Games and Twilight in the same sentence, but as sad as it is, Katniss Everdeen will never become as freakishly popular among girls as Bella Swan. Katniss is someone they can – or should – look up to and admire, and Bella is someone they are “admiring” because she’s an easily-associable, weak character written to be a transparent version of themselves, put in a fantastical situation they can only daydream of.

In other words, she’s the perfect character for the Twilight demographic. Perfect, and the worst kind possible because Bella’s the polar opposite of a strong, independent female character. Strong independent females aren’t the prime audience for a Twilight movie – and if they do enjoy it, they don’t slobber over it, breathe and eat and live Twilight like the others do. And without Bella, no one would love these books and these movies as much. And I hate her for that. Man, I shouldn’t really care but I do hate Bella Swan for being who she is and “inspiring” so many other gullible folks for wanting to be her, which is basically nothing.

This is probably a good moment to add that even though Bella Swan is one of the worst and dangerous movie characters of all time in my book, I totally don’t hate Kristen Stewart. I like Kristen a lot as an actress. It’s a damn shame that a young actress like her has to be associated with Twilight and Bella for the rest of her life, and yet if there wasn’t Twilight and even Bella we probably wouldn’t even be writing about this young actress. It’s a huge curse and a even bigger blessing, in many more ways than just being swarmed by paparazzi on the streets daily. Once Kristen gets better-written roles than Snow White and the Huntsman gave her, I do hope folks will start recognizing her for her talent instead of immediately saying, “Oh look Bella Swan is in this,” without even a second thought.

Back to my point. You might be wondering why I’m even bothering writing a paragraph full of explaining why I hate Bella Swan, since everything Twilight is about Bella Swan. Well, the fact is I’m sort of fascinated by the entire phenomenon. Twilight has become a prominent part of youth culture, like it or not, and it’s a foolish to ignore it and too easy to classify it under “Stupid stuff teenagers like that I’ll never understand, so don’t try me.” If you do that you’ll be stuck in the past, and even if it’s a Twilight-less past who really wants to be left behind in this day and age? But anyway, after watching Breaking Dawn – Part One earlier this year and finally – finally! – seeing Bella get turned into a vampire in the very last seconds of the movie, I had a faint glimmer of hope. Is it too much to presume that since she’s an immortal blood-sucking creature of the night now (and a presumably protective mother of a presumably precocious vampire kid to boot), that Bella Swan won’t be such a wimpy shadow trailing Edward anymore? Is is too much to expect her to be a stronger, more independent woman who can choose her, well, destiny? She’s not a teenager anymore…

As you can see, I didn’t read the last book so all this is speculative and hopeful thinking-out-loud. But after hours of successfully skirting the new Breaking Dawn – Part 2 trailer that was released this morning, I watched it for the good of this article. All right, since I’m not someone who dismisses anything and everything Twilight without even thinking, let me say that there is indeed hope that Bella’s a changed woman, no longer “utterly ordinary.” Not only does she have red eyes and races throught the forest in the weirdly-rendered speeded-up run that every vampire in Twilight benefits from, but we see her charging with other vampires and werewolves at the Volturi clan in the end. Breaking Dawn – Part 2 doesn’t look like a better movie than its predecessor, but I guess if the character of Bella is improved there’s no way it cannot be. But if she isn’t and the trailer is simply misleading, then the filmmakers are wasting a good opportunity to have the redeeming moment of Bella Swan, or at least in my eyes. Because in the blind eyes of Twi-hards, why should she need redeeming?

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